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Can Lululemon Stock Bounce Back After Last Week's 12% Slide?

By Rick Munarriz – Sep 5, 2016 at 2:25PM

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The upscale yoga apparel retailer slips on an analyst downgrade following a quarter of slowing growth.

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Shares of lululemon athletica (LULU -3.95%) did their best downward-facing dog last week, plunging 12% after posting quarterly results. The fresh financials seemed decent at first glance, but at least one Wall Street pro didn't see it that way.

Net revenue clocked in at $514.5 million, 14% ahead of the prior year's fiscal second quarter and at the high end of its earlier guidance. Growth for the retailer of high-end yoga apparel came from the combination of a 3% uptick in comparable-store sales, a 6% gain in consumer-direct sales, and the addition of dozens of new stores over the past year: there are now 379 Lululemon stores, up from 336 locations a year earlier. 

The company's adjusted earnings rose from $0.34 a share a year earlier to $0.38 a share this time around. That was also at the high end of its range, but exactly where Wall Street pros were perched. Lululemon is holding up well, but it has only beaten analyst profit targets once over the past four quarters. 

The quarter closed with the chain's balance sheet looking healthy, despite its spending to complete its share buyback plan. Inventory levels also dipped slightly, a welcome sign that it's not loading up on unwanted merchandise. 

It was a seemingly solid quarterly report out of Lululemon on Thursday night, but by Friday morning one analyst had turned on the company and its highly valued stock.

Striking a new pose

Morgan Stanley analyst Kimberly Greenberger wasn't impressed. She downgraded the stock from "overweight" to "equal weight," slashing her firm's price target on the stock from $74 to $70. Her fears are that comps are starting to decelerate and store traffic is starting to become a challenge.

A sticking point was Lululemon's guidance. It did inch its top- and bottom-line guidance higher for the entire fiscal year, but that was mostly the handiwork for the second quarter's better-than-expected performance. Its outlook for the third quarter now calls for $535 million to $545 million, with adjusted earnings coming in between $0.42 a share and $0.44 a share. Analysts were already camping out at the high end of both ranges. 

The upscale retailer was rolling before the stumble; the stock had hit a three-year high a week earlier. That's comforting, but the big move has made this stock, which has historically sold at a premium to the market, that much more expensive. 

Not every analyst saw things Greenberger's way. Deutsche Bank -- sticking to its neutral hold rating and $65 price target -- did strike a cautious tone about the "tougher road" that lies ahead, but other firms actually put out bullish notes by Friday. Cowen and Company sees Friday's sell-off as a buying opportunity. Oppenheimer's Anna Andreeva continues to tap the stock as her favorite play in athletic retail, pointing to accelerating growth into next year. RBC Capital still feels that Lululemon can beat expectations during the latter half of the year.

The bulls weren't enough to win the day -- or the week -- but with the stock still trading 31% higher so far in 2016, they continue to have the inside track to win the year.

Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Lululemon Athletica. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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